SEO Tools: Link Analysis, Part 3

  |  April 8, 2009   |  Comments

Free and low-cost tools for assessing the quality of backlinks.

Last time, we looked at a few anchor text link analysis tools to better understand the number of inbound links required to make a Web page show up in page-one results for particular keywords and keyword phrases. We reviewed several tools that could help root out linking opportunities along those lines.

But link building isn't just a numbers game anymore. It's important to not only focus on improving the volume of inbound links to a Web page to rank well for particular terms and phrases, but also to take into account the quality of the backlinks in terms of the source page's authority.

Where can you go to find relevant, descriptive links that will help transfer trust and authority to your Web site? Consider reviewing and then raiding rival sites' inbound links to get started. A few high-quality inbound links can sometimes make all the difference in the world, if the world consists of improving your site's positioning in the search engines. At the very least, finding and acquiring a few high-quality links will help put you on par with rival sites' results. All you really need is a place to get started.

Get the Picture?

A tool that can help you visualize your rivals' linking universe is the TouchGraph Google Browser. TouchGraph presents flexible imagery that reveals the network of connectivity between Web sites as filtered through Google's database of related sites. You can use the TouchGraph Google browser two ways. One way is to review linking associations by keyword; the other way is to review links associations URL by URL. Here is how the results for [exercise equipment] appear in terms of related sites and topics associated with the phrase:

TouchGraph results for [exercise equipment]
click to enlarge

The TouchGraph Google Browser allows you to readily survey a network of similar pages in Google. Note that Google's definition of "similar pages" isn't directly representative of inbound or outbound links. The important element is that mutual links contribute to what the TouchGraph Google Browser reveals. Using TouchGraph will help you understand how different phrases can be used to help you build on a central theme of [exercise equipment] while using a variety of anchor text in your linking strategy. As shown below, you can drill down and through the different themes to better understand the associations between phrases:

TouchGraph drill down for [exercise equipment]
click to enlarge

Finding Hubs

To find actual link targets, however, you might want to try using a hub-finding tool, where a hub is a center of activity or interest among related phrases. Hubs are a focal point around which different themes revolve. Finding and acquiring links from a hub is one part of an overall linking strategy that shouldn't be ignored.

Hub Finder, a Web-based tool, looks for hubs using data from the Yahoo API. Developed by Aaron Wall at SEO Book, Hub Finder allows you to find sites that link to common resources. Running the domains from our page-one results for [exercise equipment] search results through Hub Finder reveals potential linking opportunities because it shows where rival sites are linked to and perhaps your site isn't:

Hub Finder results for [exercise equipment]
click to enlarge

Hub pages that link to related resources can provide powerful links to help give your site a boost in relevancy for targeted words and phrases. Hub Finder quickly and succinctly roots out these opportunities based on the link destination's overall authority. Hub Finder used to be free for all to use. But 403 errors become an issue for the tool when the API (define) queries were used up for the day. Consequently, Hub Finder is now part of a set of SEO tools available from SEO Book with a premium monthly subscription, although some mirrors of the tool are still available for free if you look hard enough.

If you want to mine hubs for yourself and don't mind the heavy lifting, you can download external linking profiles of your rivals from Yahoo Site Explorer and cross-compare the results in a spreadsheet to find common linking targets. Once you have the results, it's relatively easy to start acquiring some high-quality inbound links, one link at a time.

Respect Your Elders?

It's a commonly held theory that a Web site's age is a major factor used to rank domain authority in the search engines. The idea is that the older the domain, the greater linking authority it's accrued over time, therefore an aged domain will have a slight edge in search engine rankings.

While most search engine marketers use domain-age tools to help determine if a particular domain is worth purchasing, you can also use domain-age tools to winnow down the reasons competitors' domains rank better than a brand new domain.

There are a variety of domain-age tools available as plug-ins and add-ons for browsers. Two of the more popular Web-based domain-age tools are available from SEO Chat and Webconfs.com. Remember, domain age is just one of the many signals search engines pick up on when assessing domain authority. The key is to understand which links count and which don't. We'll look at potential link-building trip ups next time.

Does your company or client offer one of the best online marketing products or services? Nominate it now for one of the 2009 ClickZ Marketing Excellence Awards!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

P.J. Fusco

P.J. Fusco has been working in the Internet industry since 1996 when she developed her first SEM service while acting as general manager for a regional ISP. She was the SEO manager for Jupitermedia and has performed as the SEM manager for an international health and beauty dot-com corporation generating more than $1 billion a year in e-commerce sales. Today, she is director for natural search for Netconcepts, a cutting-edge SEO firm with offices in Madison, WI, and Auckland, New Zealand.

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